The California citrus cooperative Sunkist Growers Inc. sees China as a potential source of citrus for its world markets.

“China is investing significantly … in plantings of navel oranges that are more attractive in global and regional markets in Asia, gravitating away from being exclusively a mandarin producer,” Mike Wootton, the co-op’s vice president of corporate relations, told The Packer on Nov. 15.

Although China has more citrus acreage than any other country, it lacks an efficient production framework, Wootton said, noting that China’s total citrus production is just 27 percent of what the United States produces on a per-acre basis.

But Wootton said he expects Chinese productivity to improve. “Eventually, they are going to be, potentially, a very significant player in the marketplace, both in China and the regional markets of Asia,” he said.

Any potential global sourcing relationship will hinge on the Chinese citrus industry increasing efficiency standards, Wootton told The Packer.

China also is one of Sunkist’s key customers. Sunkist shipped nearly 5 million cartons of navels and valencias to the country last year.